- There are special laws applicable to strata title properties
- The seller must provide certain information before buyers sign the contract
- Buyers need to consider avoiding unintended consequences, writes Jules Lewin
An off-the-plan property contract means the property is not built. The developer promises to build a strata property for an agreed price at a future date, subject to the seller obtaining all necessary development approvals.
If the seller does not obtain all approvals or does not satisfy any necessary conditions to finalise the development, the contract will not be enforceable.
The contract may also contain a condition that a certain number of units must be sold for the development to proceed. There may be other conditions as well, which will be set out in the contract.
There are special laws applicable to strata title properties. Landgate administers the Strata Titles Act 1985 and has produced ‘A Guide to Strata Titles’.
The seller must provide certain information about the scheme before buyers sign the contract. For example, they must provide specific disclosure statements and information about the proposed scheme notice, plan, by-laws and unit entitlement schedule.
What buyers need to consider…
First and foremost, buyers need to consider avoiding unintended consequences.
Obtain Legal Advice
Off-the-plan contracts are lengthy, cumbersome, and complex. If you are a first-time off-the-plan buyer, you should obtain legal advice to ensure the contract does not contain anything prejudicial. Most developers will not allow any changes, so you need to understand what you are entering into.
Financial viability of the developer
Four years is a long time to wait for your unit to be built. As we have seen, some developers have gone insolvent leaving the development in limbo or being taken over by another developer. This may delay your planned occupation, as completion will be delayed and may increase costs. You should choose a reputable developer with a good track record who specialises in the off-the-plan construction area.
Consider if there is nightlife, bars or stadiums nearby, and that this is not going to be too noisy for you when you move in. You should ask the agent to check with the developer. You do not want to move in and discover it is too noisy.
You need to check how many bays are allocated to your unit if you own more than one vehicle. You may have issues finding alternative parking arrangements for your other vehicles and may end up paying for street parking or fighting over unallocated visitor bays.
Instruct a settlement agent / solicitor
You must instruct a settlement agent or solicitor to ensure your interests are protected in terms of the contract. The contract needs to be lodged within two months of signature for stamp duty to avoid penalty. The duty is payable within three years of signature (even if construction is not complete).
The above is not an exhaustive list and these may vary from contract to contract. Do not leave anything to chance and ensure that you get legal advice to ensure there is a condition covering your requirement.